The Suburbs: Poverty’s New Frontier

During the recession, two of Illinois’s wealthiest counties have seen near-10 percent drops in median income over the course of a couple years.

The Sun-Times’s Francine Knowles has a good piece today on suburban poverty. I’ve been reading about that for awhile, so what surprised me was the statistics about income:

An analysis of Census data done by the center shows that in Cook County, the median household income last year was $51,466, down $8,625 from 1999 and down $3,351 from 2006. In DuPage County, the median was $72,471, down $16,362 from 1999 and down $7,203 from 2006. In Lake County, it was $74,705, down $12,932 from 1999 and down $6,583 from 2006.

What’s interesting is that the income drop in Lake and DuPage, which both have median incomes well above the state average (Cook County’s is almost exactly average), far outpaces job loss. During the recession, unemployment in DuPage increased less than it did in Cook County; in Lake, the increase was about the same. Yet both counties saw a 10 percent drop in inflation-adjusted income.

In 2010 the Brookings Institution took a deep look at suburban poverty in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington D.C. Among its more dramatic findings was the increase in suburbanites seeking help for the first time:

suburban poverty safety net

The survey’s map of suburban Chicago was also interesting: a similar pattern as the city, with a wealthier core surrounded by more impoverished areas.

Chicago suburban poverty map

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